If you read Part 1 of our adventures in China we’re sure you’ll be busting to read Exploring Chengdu China Part 2: Tai Chi and Chicken Soup!
At this point we’d found out a little bit about our itinerary…the pandas definitely weren’t on it (insert sad face).
We’d square danced in the street, learned a war dance, watched some seriously colourful traditional Chinese performances and we’d even experienced some relaxation at the natural hot springs. And that was just day one!
If you’re keen to learn more about China and the culture there, stay tuned. The information in this post will have your mind-boggling!
We’d heard day two was going to be even more jam-packed. Here’s what was in store for us…
Climbing a mountain on Christmas Day
Did I mention we were in China over Christmas? Before we arrived, we were pretty sure Christmas would be a bit of a non-event. As far as we knew, they didn’t celebrate Christmas in China.
Imagine our surprise when we arrived and saw Christmas decorations EVERYWHERE! Christmas has literally exploded in Chengdu! If you’re planning on heading to China over Christmas you won’t be disappointed, it’s a veritable winter wonderland. Cold weather, twinkling lights and Christmas carols playing everywhere you go. Amazing.
Waking up on Christmas Day was a little different for us this year as our itinerary meant we were going to be climbing a mountain that day. Always open to experiencing new things, we were excited to get going so after brekkie we headed to reception to wait for our film crew so we could set off.
Once on the road it didn’t take long to get to Qingcheng Mountain, the birthplace of Taoism described as ‘the most peaceful and secluded mountain under heaven’.
A spiritual journey into the clouds
Our itinerary for the Chengdu Challenge was all centred on health preservation in China. Our Christmas Day adventure would take us up Qingcheng Mountain to learn about Taoism, or ‘Daoism’ as it’s pronounced correctly in English.
I’d read a little about Taoism before heading to China. In fact, the book I’m reading right now is all about meditation which touches on Taoism (Mindfulness in the Modern World by Osho).
Taoism originated in China around 2,000 years ago.
It’s a religion of both unity and opposites, the Yin and Yang, a symbol you’re probably familiar with. Yin Yang is all about complimentary forces. Action and non-action, light and dark, hot and cold. You get the idea.
A good western reference if you’re not familiar with Taoism is Star Wars. Seriously. There are some parallels.
The Force and The Dark Side. Yin and Yang. Same, same but different.
While we were in China we read a local newspaper article about how the new Hollywood blockbuster, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, was actually based on Taoist principals…the journalist even went so far as to credit Taoism for the entire success of the Star Wars series! Wow. Big call.
We were set to learn Tai Chi and meditation with Taoist Master, Mr Wong. Yes, that was his real name! But first, we needed to get to the top of the mountain to meet him, well half way up really, but it felt pretty high up there.
To get there we needed to take a quick boat ride over a man made lake, hop on a cable car, and then walk up a serious amount of steps.
If you’re planning on visiting Qingcheng Mountain, there are a couple of options. The front mountain or the rear mountain. I think we visited the front mountain but to be honest I’m not 100% sure.
Admission to the front mountain is CNY 90 (around $20 AUD) and to the rear mountain is CNY 20 (around $5 AUD). The boat ride and the cable car are around CNY 60 (around $12 AUD) for return trips on both. Find out more about how to get to the mountain here.
Tai Chi in the clouds
Our walk up the mountain was pretty easy going despite all the steps, well for us anyway! Our film crew however, was struggling a little to keep up with us. Probably something to do with the fact that they were chain-smoking the whole time. They also openly admitted that exercise was their least favourite pastime!
We passed a few temples along the way where you could light incense and ask the Gods to help you out with a variety of things. Seems most people were keen on more wealth and a better marriage. Red ribbons tied to trees represent a happy marriage, as do the padlocks on the railings around the temple. Very similar to that famous lovers bridge in Paris!
Once we reached the top of the mountain, we were told we needed to get changed into our Tai Chi clothes…it was 3 degrees and freezing! I’ll admit, I was less than impressed at this idea. There was also a congregation of onlookers gathering who were clearly intrigued to see us up there with a film crew, so we had an audience. Great.
In our white Tai Chi pyjamas we followed Mr Wong, the Tai Chi master’s moves. Luckily he was going slow so we could keep up. Despite it being almost freezing, his Chi was keeping him warm. That’s the secret of Tai Chi…the energy flows through your body and you stay warm naturally. Need to learn that stuff…no need for layers with Chi like that!
After our introduction to Tai Chi he took us through a short meditation…in Chinese. We had no idea what he was saying but we rolled with it and closed our eyes for a few moments of zen.
The four specialties of Qingcheng Mountain
After our foray into Tai Chi and meditation it was time to head back down the mountain for lunch. On the menu? Gingko Chicken Soup.
Despite our film crew knowing full well that we we’re vegetarian, they were pretty adamant that we get amongst this chicken soup as it is one of the four specialties of Qingcheng Mountain. Another one of the four was kiwi fruit wine. Hmm. We are vegetarians who don’t drink. This was going to be interesting!
Regardless, we went along with the program. Our friend Mr Wong came along with us too.
The soup arrived. A whole chicken in a bath of soup with a gingko bean in it’s beak for decoration. Apparently this soup is supposed to be good for your skin. Needless to say we took their word for it and gave it a miss. Even though they promised us the soup was vegetarian!
The other two specialties were pickled ginger with chilli (yum!) and green tea with jasmine (double yum!) so we happily sampled those.
None of the food went to waste you’ll be glad to know; the film crew got the chicken soup to go…in a plastic bag!
Back to Chengdu…in peak hour!
After our culinary adventure on the mountain, it was time to head back to Chengdu. No bullet train this time, we were getting an Uber.
Sounds straight forward enough but getting an Uber in China is a little different to getting an Uber in Sydney. It took three attempts of us getting in and out of vehicles with three different drivers before a fare could be agreed on and we set off back to the city.
By this point the traffic was heavy. As in complete gridlock. It took us a good few hours to get back to the city and eventually we had to hop out of the car and get on to the metro (which was packed!) to get back to our hotel.
When we arrived back at our hotel we were exhausted and hungry. Luckily the Niccolo Hotel is totally amazing and they do a mean pizza on the room service menu. So, Christmas dinner for us consisted of pizza and hot chips! Our favourite.
We know what you’re thinking…did we get to see the pandas!?
Our official Chengdu Challenge was over. We’d experienced some pretty cool things in and around Chengdu but those pandas were still on my mind…
We teamed up with Serena Goh from The Spicy Stiletto (who had also been doing her own Chengdu Challenge!) and her crew arranged for us all to go and visit the Giant Panda base on our last morning in China.
You can read all about our close encounter with the Giant Pandas in our next post on the blog so stay tuned…in the meantime, check out our video of our visit to the Panda Base! Warning: be prepared to see seriously cute baby pandas on film!
Ever been to China? What did you love? What did you hate? Check out the 14 things we loved and hated about China.
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